Immersion Journeys in Italy, France and Spain

On August 29th, 2020 by Karen Embrey

What's Cooking in Our Kitchens?!

Posted In:
Food | Italy | People | Recipes

We're making pasta!

During these times when all of our wings have been clipped and our travel itineraries halted, Tuscany Tours has been offering some amazing online experiences to our travel community.  Many of our travelers have enjoyed the expertise of our friends, Chef Vincenzo and Sheryl, during our online cooking classes. The recipes featured so far have allowed our home cooks to Bring Italy Home! by way of Italian recipes like gnocchi, orecchiette, pallotte cace e ove, and amazing desserts tiramisu and biscotti!


Larry & Nancy having fun in the kitchen!

Larry & Nancy having fun in the kitchen!


Biscotti and TiramisuThose folks adventurous enough to dive into these authentic, homespun Italian recipes have learned how to use cheese curds, the difference between regular flour and semolina flour (very important for the orecchiette!), and that carrots in a red sauce is normal in Abruzzo!  Not to mention, getting to know the local Trader Joe's or discovering Amazon Food for finding the authentic ingredients needed for some of the recipes.

We are excited to share with you the recipe for Dark Chocolate Almond Biscotti (pictured here).

If you'd like to join one of our online cooking classes - or another of our virtual experiences - check out our Bring Italy Home! Shop.  We hope to see you in the kitchen soon!



Vincenzo Giangiordano trained at the very traditional Italian culinary institute Villa Santa Maria. This culinary school is in the mountainous region of Abruzzo where he is originally from. Chef Vincenzo has worked in restaurants within five star hotels all over Italy, including Milan, Rome, Venice, Florence (Fiesole) and Siena. This is where he learned the traditional dishes from each region. For seven years, he was owner and chef of La Porta del Chianti in the heart of the Chianti region in Tuscany. During this time, the restaurant earned a place in the Michelin guide.

Sheryl Ness recently published a book about their life together called Love in a Tuscan Kitchen: Savoring Life Through the Romance, Recipes, and Traditions of Italy. The book will take you on a journey to Italy and to a little village in Chianti where she and Vincenzo lived for 6 years. The book also includes 38 traditional recipes for dishes such as spaghetti carbonara, risotto, ribollita soup, pici cacio e pepe and the hot chocolate love cake, among other treasures.

Chef Vincenzo & Sheryl Ness

Chef Vincenzo & Sheryl Ness

On August 28th, 2020 by Pam Mercer

Tuscany Tours Team Update – Comings & Goings

Posted In:
People | Tuscany Tours Team

Shauna & Jaimi in Florence

“In Bocca al Lupo” – Good Luck Shauna!

Pam and Sam (Tuscany Tours founders) and Shauna had kids in first grade together a very long time ago in northern California.  When we discovered that she was an accountant, we saw an awesome opportunity, so Shauna became our bookkeeper over 12 years ago!  As Tuscany Tours grew, Shauna’s role expanded to also include Trip Designer and ultimately Manager of our far-flung team of travel planners. Now she’s headed off to new horizons, and we will miss her greatly.  Many of you have had connections with Shauna over the years; if you’d like to say good-bye and good luck please email her at (her email address will be active for another couple of weeks).



Meet Tuscany Tours Newest Team Members – Jeremy and Sherry!

Jeremy Cotroneo loves travel, especially little-known regional specialties.  You can often find him searching for the most out-of-the-way and best local restaurants for our travelers who like to go “off-road.”  He is fascinated by experiencing new cultures and has spent the majority of his professional life creating multi-cultural connections through planning travel and teaching internationally.  Jeremy considers himself fortunate to be in a career which allows him to make deep personal connections with people and help reach a common goal together, whether it be finding the vacation sweet spot or passing an exam.

Jeremy grew up in California and a trip to Italy changed his life!  Studying abroad in college introduced him to the joy of travel and experiencing cultural diversity, his passions ever since.  He spends most of the year in Tuscany, where he is constantly searching for the perfect aperitivo with a view (if you think you’ve found it let him know!).

A lover of all things outdoors, eremy hikes a portion of the Via Francigena Pilgrim Trail every year, and his goal is to complete the whole Italian portion, from the Swiss-Italian border to the heel of Puglia, all on foot.

He loves planning trips, whether his own or our clients’, and has a particular eye to each individual traveler’s needs.


Sherry Trantow grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.  While raising her two children she took classes at Rochester, Minnesota community technical college where she graduated with an honors associate degree in accounting.  She was a bookkeeper for 10 years and then decided to try out something new that would put her more in contact with people and she went back to school and studied dental hygiene which she practiced for thirteen years.  Now she is returning to her accounting roots to work for Tuscany Tours.

Sherry has a daughter and a son and 3 step-sons.  When she is not working, she is a runner and has run 17 marathons but will stick to half marathons now.  She has served as the treasurer for her church.  She loves to sew quilts and knit and is always just finishing a cardigan for a family member.  A lover of travel who has journeyed extensively, she is also an avid reader and will fit right in with our travelers!



Benvenuto a Louis!

Rubina is the manager of our public tours, but recently she has been the manager of her new baby boy.  Louis was born in April and has kept his mamma and papa busy and happy.  He’ll grow up learning French, Italian and English, and we welcome him into the Tuscany Tours community!







On August 27th, 2020 by Jeremy Cotroneo

Glamping in Chianti

Posted In:
Life in Tuscany | Radda | Reflections

Another “first” in this odd year that is 2020: my first time glamping… at one of Tuscany’s finest “glampsites!”


Finally, free from Italy’s lockdown, but with the pandemic still lurking in the shadows, my wife and I decided to take our 9-year-old nephew on an adventure.  We needed a place where we could get offline, without huge crowds, but where we could relax and shake off some of the stress of the past few months… and so a glamping trip it was!!


The Beautiful Chianti Region


We jumped in our car and slowly wound our way through vineyard-laced wooded hills, up and up, as far as we could possibly delve into the depths of Chianti.  As we approached the town of Radda in Chianti, our city-dwelling nephew commented “Wow, this town is really in the middle of nowhere!”  He was right, and that’s the beauty of exploring the bel paese.


The Beautiful – yet isolated – Radda in Chianti

Photo Credit: Wikipedia (Radda-in-Chianti)


Growing up in California, my experiences with camping had always been on the rugged side.  You drive as far as you possibly can from “civilization,” leave the car, and set up shop.  A week’s worth of food was brought from home and stored in a thermo cooler along with a giant ice block. Restrooms were outhouses, baths taken in lakes, and the only semblances of electricity were emitted from gas lanterns or transistor AM radios.


Typical campsite from my youth

Photo Credit: (Haanala)

I had never been camping in Italy before, but I already knew that Italians have a bit of a different take on things.  You are never THAT far from a village here, and campsites offer more services and amenities. Bathrooms are a must, and bars and restaurants are staples.  So, when glamping came into fashion a few years ago, the transition from camping to “glamping” was probably quite smooth.


Now, you may be wondering – what the heck is “glamping?”  Essentially, it’s luxury camping.  You get most of the amenities of a resort or hotel room, but you are still in the middle of nature.


Our research for “glampsites” yielded quite a few options: everything from tree houses in Tuscany, to yurts in olive groves in Abruzzo, or even staying in a bubble (!?) in Basilicata. In the end we chose to stay close to home at Orlando Glamping,  nestled high in the Chianti region’s forested hills.


Orlando Glamping

Photo Credit:


Air Lodge Accommodation

Photo Credit:


Upon arrival, we noted the license plates on the cars: half from Italy and half from the Netherlands, an interesting mix.  Our accommodation was known as an “Air Lodge,” a sort of two-story wooden structure with tent walls and roof.  The loft has a tent ceiling that could be unzipped, yielding a skylight.  Very quaint, but complete with bathroom, a tiny kitchen reminiscent of Ikea’s eco-house, and even an electric “BBQ.”


This resort had various types of accommodations at different price points: cabins, RV parking, tents, and something that looked like a rustic version of a Japanese capsule hotel which they call a “cube.”  Something for everyone.

Most guests were families with children aged 12 and under, and this was the target age for most activities.  The entertainment schedule featured balloon animals, kiddy water gym, and a disco. In addition, there was an off-road driving course with baby quads for kids under 10.


Where most people spent their days


In the end, most of our time was dedicated to the pool, switching from waterslide to jacuzzi to pool to lounge chairs… just what the doctor ordered!  A great way to soak up the Tuscan sun, this is how many of the “glampers” spent their days.    Social distancing was in effect by  the guests… somewhat.


Food will always be a central theme of my travels. If you know me, you know I tend to be skeptical (rightly or wrongly) about culinary quality in all-inclusive type resorts (Especially Italian locations frequented by high numbers of foreigners).  However, I was pleasantly surprised by both the quality of the meals (the typical Sienese “pici” pasta with garlic, extra virgin olive oil, fresh tomato sauce, and hot pepper and sauce was superb) and their presentation (truly works of art).

And when the food is right, you can’t go wrong, so all in all, I was quite pleased with my first Italian glamping experience.  Great fun and great food for the family!!


Pici All'Aglione



Breakfast Spread


Personaggi ~ People
Riflessioni ~ Reflections
Ricette ~ Recipes
Racconti di viaggiatori
~ Traveler’s tales
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